When Rick Champion began booking rock and roll bands at a club called Phranks & Steins off West End Avenue back in 1978 he set in motion a Nashville rock and roll revolution that shows no sign of ever stopping. Sure, there was rock and roll in Nashville before this event, but it was only after punk rock hit these shores that the DIY spirit charged the Mid-South with true electrical mayhem. So far in previous posts we’ve discussed the following rockers: Jason and the Nashville Scorchers, The Dusters, Practical Stylists, Forever Ungratical Corinaric Technikalation, Questionnaires, Dave Cloud, Cloverbottom, The Shazam, No Art, 69 Tribe, Walk The West, Chip and The Chiltons, White Animals, and The Young Nashvillians. Keep reading to see who my friend Dr. DD Blank and I dig up in this: Part 3 of Nashville Rock Post 1978. Keep in mind that this overview is not in order, nor does it seek to be an exhaustive one. We’ll leave that to the real historians out there.
Wally: Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks - From Night Flight cult video favorite to cultural icon, Webb Wilder is the man! Watch his long form videos featuring comedian Shane Caldwell. Read his detective novel. Listen to his phenomenal roots music. Webb is a true renaissance man. I like his version of “The Devil’s Right Hand” better than Steve Earle’s original…and the reason Earle is not on this list is because I consider him to be a country artist. If more folks lived their life by Webb’s credo “Work Hard…Rock Hard…Eat Hard…Sleep Hard…Grow Big…Wear Glasses If You Need ‘Em”, the world would be a better place. Webb also had a role in the movie, The Thing Called Love. It Came From Nashville was recently reissued with bonus tracks so be sure and get a copy. Webb also has a new album titled About Time due out on March 15th.
DD: Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks - Webb was a transplant to Nashville from Mississippi and he has been a definite positive addition to the scene. I first got to see him at the Glass Onion in Belle Meade years ago. It Came From Nashville is in the top five of rock records to come out of Nashville. It was fun. It rocked and it was fully realized. My faves were always “How Long Can She Last” and “Poolside”. What were yours?
BEST YEARS: 1985-present
DD: jack - The finest band to ever come out of Murfreesboro. When they were at their zenith and the pistons were all firing in unison, there wasn’t a finer band to ever play Lucy’s Record Shop or Summer Lights for that matter. An amalgam of the Sonics, Beefheart, Zappa, Pere Ubu, and the Kinks, they would be right at home in the current garage scene. They still play occasionally around town. Don’t miss them.
Wally: jack - Not a Nashville band!! They may play in the ‘ville, but they are a Murfreesboro group. DD and I argued about this until the fists were flying. After some black eyes and broken bones (like the days in the pit at an Intruder show) we gave up. He added the Murfreesboro bit and I agreed to include them here. They are personal friends of both of us so keep that in mind. I believe DD covered the influences well. When jack wants to be, they are one of the most courageous bands in the Mid-South combining a No New York sensibility with Creedence type pop smarts. Ooops, more influences noted!! They have been together since 1986 and I can still recall the shows at Murfreesboro dive bar Jabb’s, which usually degenerated into band members fighting to the present day mixture of drunkenness and polish. I said this statement years ago in my an issue of Anti-Society, but I’ll say it again. Go see them and make them rich.
BEST YEARS: 1992-present
Wally: Shadow 15 - Cousin It comes to mind when describing this marriage of Joy Division and Judas Priest, and I’m not talking about the Nashville hardcore band from the 90’s. I’m talking long hair and lots of it. And they featured a women lead guitarist in a non-exploitative way (take that stupid old Nashville Pussy). They put out one fine full-length cassette and a mini lp. The biggest show I saw them play was at the War Memorial Auditorium where a couple of punks got kicked out for fighting during the band’s cover of “Breaking The Law”. Chris Feinstein later played with Iodine. Barry Nelson needs to call the Feinstein brothers up and hit the reunion circuit. Damn, they were good.
DD: Shadow 15 - Longhaired rock and roll from Nashville that didn’t sound like Marshall Tucker or Mötley Crüe! Yeah, they might have been a grunge band if they had come along 5 years later, but they didn’t. They were a rock and roll band in the purest sense.
BEST YEARS: 1984-1987
DD: Government Cheese -I can’t go through the canned fruit section of the grocery store without singing the chorus of “Yellow Cling Peaches.” When I had lunch at school with my elementary school age cousins, I was secretly hoping that it was “Fish Stick Day.” Government Cheese came out of Bowling Green to give us a well-needed dose of fun.
Wally: Government Cheese - Tommy Womack led this highly charged act from Bowling Green to Nashville superstardom. I loved “The Shrubbery’s Dead Where Danny Used To Fall” and “Mammaw Drives The Bus”. I was very impressed when they played a cover of Jim Carroll’s “People That Died” the first time I saw them. Is drummer Joe Elvis still deejaying? These fellows had longevity too. The last time I remember seeing them was after the Gulf War in the Toot’s parking lot in the ‘boro playing a Memorial Day party. Oh, Womack’s The Cheese Chronicles is a great rock and roll book and is highly recommended. I love the part about their first NYC visit where they ended up sleeping in Grand Central Station. Rumors abound that a sequel is being written.
BEST YEARS: 1986-1995
WALLY: The Movement - When Dolly Parton's cousin Richie Owens got tired of trying to make it in heavy metal with Placid Fury (what a name!!) he started a neo-psychedelic group named The Movement who put out one brilliant ep on Richie's Neo Records in 1985. “Together We Can Survive”! They were ubiquitous for about a year mining that 60's Yardbirds style beat until they broke up into oblivion, although Richie was rumored to be seen in overalls working at Dollywood a few years later. He is a very highly regarded dobro player these days and I believe he also led a group called Richie Owens and the Farm Bureau.
DD: The Movement - I was never that hot for these guys until the City Without A
Subway compilation. With a great hook and a beat you might want to
dance to; "Lost Horizon" was the kind of song that you never forget.
Lead man Richie Owens has turned up lately writing and recording songs
with former Knoxville mainstay Brian Waldschlager. Both have toured
from time to time as the back-up band for Richie's cousin Dolly Parton.
BEST YEARS: 1984-1986
Wally: Crop Circle Hoax - A 90’s act on the list! They played all the time in the mid 90’s but I never saw them live until I ended up on the same bill during the last weekend series of shows at Lucy’s Record Shop. They were awesome in a tender Yo La Tengo kind of way. Their music would not be out of place on a Hal Hartley movie soundtrack. Everybody needs a girl “that hangs the planets”.
DD: Crop Circle Hoax - It seems like I may have seen these guys in Knoxville
a couple of times, but the time that I remember most was at Lucy's
Record Store right before it shut down. It was great in a Yo La Tengo
sort of indie-pop way, i.e. something that I never grow tired of.
BEST YEARS: 1995-1998
Wally: The Enemy /Royal Court of China - Joe Blanton graduated from the Ratz to the Enemy who terrorized Nash Vegas for far too short a time. Their most famous tune’s lyrics were stolen from a telephone pole flier called “Jesus Rides A UFO” put up by some local religious itinerant. Perhaps that’s an apocryphal story, but the song sure rocked. The Enemy became Royal Court of China roundabout 1986 and put out one stellar ep “Off The Beaten Path” with 91 Rock fave “Forget Me Nots” garnering airplay. Management juggernaut Grace Reinbold threw her weight behind the boys and got them a deal with A&M where they released a charming and evocative debut which went nowhere so the husky voiced Blanton turned them into a metal band that put out the ridiculously bad “Geared and Primed”. Sweet oblivion was soon to follow. Blanton resurfaced in the 90’s with a pathetic attempt to become a country artist. Just like Ron Keel did. Nowadays he’s fronting another hard rock band, Door No. 2, out of Florida.
DD: The Enemy /Royal Court of China - I remember reading about how the Enemy sort of morphed into RCC, so I am including them together. “Jesus Rides a UFO” was a street corner poem that was immortalized by the Enemy and after JT Blanton moved on to the band RCC, he started writing his own lyrics and boy did he have some great songs. Let’s never forget “Forget Me Nots.”
BEST YEARS: 1984-1987
Be sure and look for the final installment of Nashville Rock which should be up soon.